New Beginnings with Vision-Aid (Part 3)

Vision-Aid 16 part Service ModelIn 2004, Ramakrishna (Ram) Raju, his wife, Co-Founder, and Vice President, Ravathy Ramakrishna, and a team of energetic volunteers created Vision-Aid. Their initial goal was to identify and address the many needs of people with vision impairment. But their larger mission was to provide a path for people in India with vision impairment to gain personal and professional independence.

Vision-Aid’s research and efforts produced a holistic, 16-element program. This program helps people with vision impairment through every stage of independence development. Vision-Aid’s offerings begin with assessment and training to navigate the challenges of everyday living:

  • orientation and mobility training
  • life-skills training
  • assistive aid and device training (includes braille readers for learning how to read Braille)

Vision-Aid continues to provide educational opportunities through online learning programs accessible through Vision-Aid Academy. They include:

  • basic computer skills (Microsoft Office, Internet, assistive technologies for people with vision impairment)
  • complex computer skills (Python, Digital Accessibility);
  • learning English; and
  • professional skills.

(The new Digital Accessibility Testing and Training Center also gives students the chance to do professional-level projects with supervision)

Vision-Aid’s Professional Development and Employment Assistance services help students connect their skills with industry jobs. This completes their path to independence. Services include:

  • soft skills training;
  • resume writing;
  • coaching/mentoring; and
  • placement assistance.

In addition, Vision-Aid has programs that help educate the public and create new prospects for their community. It has 12 centers across India helping underserved communities. With that broad picture of what Vision-Aid does, my next blog post will focus on how Vision-Aid connects people with vision impairment to the digital world.

New Beginnings with Vision-Aid (Part 2)

Ram and his team investigated building a Web accessibility program within Vision-Aid. It’s initial request for participants quickly produced 30 trainees. Then Vision-Aid turned to Deque University, a leader in digital accessibility training. Deque provides Scholarships for People with Disabilities. Vision-Aid trainees had free access to Deque University’s online program provided by Glenda Sims, Deque’s Team A11Y Lead. Over the next 4.5 months, trainees worked through Deque’s program with a team of expert volunteers. Graduates from the program received Deque University Certificates. The program was so successful that Vision-Aid trained a second round of students. In October 2020, Vision-Aid officially launched its Digital Accessibility Testing and Training Center.

Leading up to the launch, Ram, his team, and I spoke about a pilot program. The pilot would give Vision-Aid graduates the opportunity to work on their first paid project. During the program, 6 of Vision-Aid’s testers reviewed a Website for accessibility issues. Their performance was exceptional. They identified all accessibility issues and proposed real solutions. Ram and his team shared that this pilot was a huge confidence booster for Vision-Aid’s students. Testers were proud of doing productive work comparable to for-profit companies. Due to this experience, several testers proceeded to get industry jobs. Vision-Aid has a wonderful video of the students expressing their gratitude. It made me cry with happiness.

Building an independent life with a visual impairment can be challenging without support. Vision-Aid has created a path with support in all the right places. I am so happy to have been a part of this journey. In my next post, I will share more about Vision-Aid’s work.

New Beginnings with Vision-Aid (Part 1)

Vision-Aid Logo

Last Fall, I took part in a pilot program that meant the world to me. My team at UMass Medical School partnered with Vision-Aid, which helps people with visual impairment in India. India has the highest level of visual impairment in the world. Yet, many of them lack the resources they need to be productive members of society.

Created in 2004, Vision-Aid helps everyone from childhood to adulthood. Its mission is to help people with visual impairment gain independence and pride. The program is volunteer-run and funded by donors and project work. Most of Vision-Aid’s finances go to the communities of visually impaired that it serves. My team pilot-tested Vision-Aid’s new Digital Accessibility Testing and Training Center. The center is led by Vision-Aid Founder and Executive Director, Ramakrishna (Ram) Raju.

I had known Ram through our work with the Boston Accessibility Group. Three years ago, he started a Vision-Aid training program for HTML and CSS in partnership with Our Space Our Place and its Executive Director, Cheryl Cumings. I introduced the students to Web accessibility for people with cognitive disabilities.

MassCONNECT PI for EasyText.AI

I was accepted to a while ago to the MassCONNECT PI Startup Accelerator Program for my EasyText.AI startup (training AI to simplify web text for people with cognitive disabilities).

MassBio logo

MassCONNECT PI is a program of the Massachusetts Biotechnology Council (MassBio). It matches Principle Investigators with subject matter experts and key opinion-leaders from the MassCONNECT network.

The MassCONNECT PI Program helps me:

  • translate my academic research to the market; and
  • expedite the spin-out of that research.

Brian Mullen

Brian Mullen, my MassCONNECT PI Startup Accelerator Advisor, has been providing me with wonderful advice. I love learning from him. I could not ask for a better advisor.

 

 

Appreciation

  • Lucie Rochard, Former Liaison for Scientific & Entrepreneurial Initiatives | Senior Director of Innovation Services, Massachusetts Biotechnology Council.
  • Steven Munevar, Former Senior Business Development Manager for Biomedical Research, University of Massachusetts Medical School.

W3C & OGC Web Maps for Cognitive Accessibility

Maps for the Web LogoOn September 28, 2020, I presented at Maps for the Web. This was a workshop series created and hosted by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) and the Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC).

Workshops’ Overall Goals

Bring together experts in:

  • geographic standards and Web map data services,
  • Web mapping client tools and applications, and
  • Web platform standards and browser development

to explore the potential of maps for the Web.

Major Areas of Focus

  • improving the usability and accessibility of maps
  • encouraging the design of map-based experiences, and
  • building easier ways for researchers to share content.

I served as a panelist with fellow W3C Accessibility Guidelines Working Group members David Fazio, and John Kirkwood. Our workshop was Web Maps for Cognitive Accessibility (COGA).

Web Maps for COGA Background Info

Notes

W3C Logo

MassVX for EasyText.AI

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I was accepted to a while ago to the MassVX Program for my EasyText.AI startup (training AI to simplify web text for people with cognitive disabilities).

MassVX is a program of the Massachusetts Technology Transfer Center (MTTC). It matches Academic Innovators with Entrepreneurial Champions.

The MassVX Program is helping me:

  • translate my academic research to the market; and
  • expedite the spin-out of that research.

John Ripple, my MassVX Entrepreneurial Champion, has been working with me every week for months. His industry knowledge and sage advice are integral to the successful launch of EasyText.AI. I could not have asked for a better mentor than John.

Appreciation

Suffolk U. for EasyText.AI

Suffolk University BostonThis is a message of appreciation for a Suffolk University team that has been helping me with my startup, EasyText.AI. It’s members include two smart, passionate, resourceful graduate students.

Barbara LaurentJackson Place
""""

The team also includes their wise professors with extensive startup knowledge and experience:

Ken MooneySteve Munevar
""""

The team has been helping me with research, pitch decks, business model canvases, market opportunities, and connections to potential investors.

I cannot thank this team enough!

 

MassCONNECT PI for EasyText.AI

Massachusetts Biotechnology Council

Massachusetts Biotechnology CouncilI was just accepted to the MassCONNECT PI program for my EasyText.AI startup (training AI to simplify web text for people with cognitive disabilities). I am excited!

MassCONNECT Pl is a program of the Massachusetts Biotechnology Council. It is for Principal Investigators in Life Sciences actively developing technology with industrial applications. 

The MassCONNECT Pl Program will help me:

  • validate my ideas;
  • obtain industry perspectives; and
  • determine a potential path with subject-matter experts and key opinion leaders.

Appreciation

  • For accepting me into the MassCONNECT Pl Program, I thank Lucie Rochard, Liaison for Scientific & Entrepreneurial Initiatives | Director of Innovation Services, Massachusetts Biotechnology Council.
  • For informing me about this wonderful program, and for guiding me in my startup journey, I thank Steven Munevar, Senior Business Development Manager/BRIDGE Fund, University of Massachusetts Medical School.

 

MIT I-Corps Customer Discovery Interviews

Please contact me! I would love to talk with you.New England Regional Innovation Node at MIT

I am conducting customer discovery interviews, which is the focus of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Innovation-Corps program for my EasyText.AI startup (training AI to simplify web text for people with cognitive disabilities).

See my related blog post, “MIT Innovation Corps for EasyText.AI.”

Please contact me! Thank you!

MIT Innovation-Corps for EasyText.AI

New England Regional Innovation Node at MIT

New England Regional Innovation Node at MIT

I was just accepted to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Innovation-Corps program for my EasyText.AI startup (training AI to simplify web text for people with cognitive disabilities). I am excited!

The I-Corps Program will help me:

Notes

Two of my wonderful colleagues will join me.

I thank Philip Loew for accepting me into the I-Corps Program.